SUNDERLAND head coach Lee Johnson intends to use Luke O’Nien primarily as a midfielder this season.

O’Nien signed a new deal with the Black Cats earlier this summer, with Johnson admitting the 26-year-old versatility was a key factor in the club’s willingness to meet his wage demands.

However, while O’Nien spent the vast majority of last season playing as a centre-half or full-back, Johnson does not regard that as his best position.

Instead, the Sunderland boss wants to use him mainly as a central midfielder this season, the position he filled in yesterday’s 4-0 friendly win at Harrogate Town.

Johnson said: “We definitely see him as a central midfielder - we have signed him as a number eight.

“But the reason Luke got an extra percentage increase on his wage, which enabled us to keep him, is because of his versatility.

“By having Luke who can play at centre-mid, centre-half, right-back, it means you can reduce your squad by one body, which means you don't have to pay relocation, an agent's fee, or anything.

“I'd rather have 20 quality first-team players than 25 average ones.”